Columns 2018

The Little Elf is spitting into the wind

Let’s talk pot. And by pot I mean marijuana. I prefer to call it pot because then there is a good chance I won’t spell marijuana wrong every other time I use the word.

I am an openly confessed old hippie. Back in the day when I first used pot, my idea of the munchies involved lots of salt, sugar and fat – fried chicken, French fries and cake, candy or ice cream. There was a time I could eat that at 11 PM and still sleep through the night. Now, I am more apt to munch out on a veggie tray followed by popcorn, all eaten before 9 PM if I want to sleep comfortably.

I’m not the only aging hippie around who is adjusting old habits to new realities like the legalization of pot. I still find it hard to believe that I have managed to make it from the days of Reefer Madness to your local legitimate pot shop.

In some way, I’m both surprised and not surprised by this. I’m surprised that once legalization started, the dominoes began falling so fast. I’m not surprised the Little Elf running the Justice Department is still railing against it. I am also not surprised that he is spitting into the wind on this one.

Pot was the underground joy for many of my generation and it was always available. Because of this easy availability, a whole lot of people have tried it. So when the Little Elf tries to paint pot as an evil drug that destroys life, there are simply too many people who have experienced it and know that’s not true.

Perhaps the most important reason Sessions won’t get anywhere with this issue can be summed up in one word – money. Legal pot is a huge moneymaker. And the more money it makes, the more taxes the industry pays to state and local communities. Once you are using the word billions to describe the amount of revenue generated by licensed pot sales, you have gone beyond hippie farmers hiding in the forest to businessmen in three-piece suits. They are not going to allow the Little Elf to kill their profits.

So the question must be asked as to why Sessions has picked this particular battle at this particular moment in time. It could be that he is trying to divert attention from the idiocy at the top of the administration for which he works. It could be that he is simply tone deaf to what the majority of Americans think about pot. Maybe he just doesn’t care what Americans think. Maybe the power of his office has gone to his head – a short journey by any measure.

I am fully aware of the problems caused by drugs in our country. Neither alcohol nor pot, legal though they may be, should be available to young people while they are still growing, maturing and learning. And anyone with addiction issues should obviously avoid all drugs, pot included. But the reality is that pot is nowhere near as harmful as alcohol.

I’ve been a social worker. I’ve been a Guardian Ad Litem. I’ve been a court visitor. I worked with dysfunctional families for decades. Pot is rarely as much of a problem as alcohol in these families. In fact, I would gladly have given every family I worked with a lid of pot if they would have given me all the liquor in their house. My weekends on call would have been much quieter.

For me, the irony of this whole situation has always been that parents felt comfortable lecturing their children on the evils of drug use while pouring themselves a glass of wine or mixing a drink. Even parents who had used in their youth and knew that the “evils” of pot were largely a myth took this stance because of societal pressure. Americans were somehow convinced that alcohol use, despite the public cost it creates in ruined lives and families, is somehow ok but pot is a path to destruction. It’s like the only thing they know about pot they learned from the movie Reefer Madness.

Jeff Sessions is not going to win this one. He is fighting forces much stronger and more powerful than he is – big business. They aren’t giving up their profits. States are not giving up their tax revenues. So why doesn’t he turn his focus to the real drug problem in America today – opioids – and drop this bogus battle?